When Kit, who yearns to be a pilot even though he's too young, hears that the flying age has been lowered to twelve in Thembria, he goes there, only to discover that the whole thing is just a ruse and the kids won't actually be flying.
En route to Louie's Place in the Sea Duck, Kit Cloudkicker pleads with Baloo to let him take the controls, insisting that he knows the flying manual from front to back. Baloo chuckles and says knowing the manual isn't enough, Kit is still too young to fly, and urges him to be patient.
While the Sea Duck is down and Baloo is inside Louie's, Kit dares to sit in the pilot's chair and start the engines, believing he can at least taxi the plane into takeoff position on his own - but he accidentally nudges the plane forward into a minor crash with the pier. Running outside, Baloo's alarm for Kit's safety quickly turns to anger. Kit insists that the crash was just a fluke, and Baloo repeats, "12 year olds aren't allowed to fly!" But a visiting officer of the Thembrian Air Force overhears and mentions that his country has just lowered the flying age to 12. Despite Baloo's warnings, Kit immediately decides to travel to Thembria and enlist.
Kit befriends another cadet, Bobbo, but immediately senses something fishy about the training program. To begin with, the cadets are selected purely on the basis of height: one well-qualified cadet is rejected for being too tall, while Bobbo and Kit are both selected immediately for being short enough, despite Bobbo knowing little to nothing about aeronautics and Kit not being Thembrian.
Second, after the cadets have been issued with their uniforms, the "training", run by Kit and Baloo's old antagonist, Colonel Ivanod Spigot, consists entirely of coaching the cadets on how to stand beside their planes and salute the grandstands during an upcoming military parade and airshow. When Kit demands to know when they will actually be trained to fly, Spigot punishes him by putting him on kitchen duty, peeling vast numbers of onions.
Meanwhile, Baloo, sure that Kit will get into trouble, decides to fly into Thembria to bring him back.
Fed up with the lack of training and the repeated punishment details, Kit sneaks into the hangar to learn what is going on. From the rafters overhead, he sees the cadets' planes arranged in parade formation, with Sergeant Dunder bolting the wings together under Spigot's orders. When Dunder wonders aloud how the pilots are supposed to fly their planes bolted together, Spigot smacks him for being a dunderhead and explains.
Overhearing, Kit is furious and heartbroken to learn that the whole training program is a ruse: the Thembrian factory mistakenly sent miniature planes for the parade, too small to be flown by adult pilots. By recruiting kids to act as pilots, Spigot hopes to deceive the High Marshall, making it appear (through forced perspective) from the grandstands that the planes are full-sized models. The only actual flying will be done by the Thembrian Air Force's shortest (adult) pilot, from the lead plane, to which the kids' planes will be bolted so they appear to fly in formation.
The beam supporting Kit's weight gives way, and he almost crashes onto Spigot and Dunder, and quickly flees back to the barracks. He tells Bobbo the truth, but resolves that, no matter what, he is flying his own plane the following day.
During the parade, everything goes according to Spigot's plan, but once the phony formation is in the air, Kit opens his cockpit hatch, crawls to the end of his wing and removes the bolt, then climbs back into the cockpit and rolls out of formation.
Immediately, his plane spins out of control, causing Kit to scream in helpless confusion. The rest of the formation makes an emergency landing.
Baloo appears beside him in the Sea Duck, evading fighter planes from the Thembrian Air Force (one of them flown by the same officer who originally met with Kit and Baloo at Louie's), and contacts Kit over the radio, coaching Kit to get the spin under control, but his plane is heading for a mountain. At Baloo's instruction, Kit pulls up, hard, and manages to avoid crashing.
Leveling off, Kit dejectedly admits Baloo was right, Kit didn't have what it took to fly on his own. Baloo encourages him not to give up, he will be a great pilot one day - but now that they both agree that he must wait a few more years, asks him to land as quickly as possible, so Baloo can pick him up and fly him home. Laughing, Kit agrees.
As the Sea Duck and Kit's fighter pass overhead, Bobbo salutes from the ground, saying he and the other cadets will always remember Kit as "the kid who flew a plane... sort of."
Seeing children climbing out of the cockpits of the fighters, the High Marshall turns furiously on Spigot, who begs not to be shot. The High Marshall says he wouldn't waste a bullet on Spigot, and besides, he has a much crueler punishment in mind...
In the barracks kitchen, Spigot is peeling onions, cursing Kit through his tears and praying not to cut himself.
Home video releases
- TaleSpin: Volume 2